While Vietnamese cuisine might be known for its meaty soups, and meat makes up a big part of Vietnamese cuisine, there is a lot of Vietnamese vegetarian food.
As herbs and spices, as well as fresh vegetables and fruit, are ubiquitous in Vietnamese cuisine, there are many choices. Add to this the fact that Vietnam is a Buddhist country, and you won't be surprised to find so much vegetarian food.
Read on to find out more about Vietnamese vegetarian cuisine, as well as some outstanding restaurants with vegetarian options in Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh. The quality of their food is extremely high, and you will have the chance to taste some traditional Vietnamese dishes.
- Good vegetarian food is very common all over Vietnam, making up a large part of Vietnamese cuisine in general.
- Buddhist cuisine uses a huge variety of greens, herbs and spices to create delicious vegetarian dishes.
- Veggies are usually stir-fried, boiled, or eaten raw.
- In Ho Chi Minh, you will find Hum Vegetarian Café and Restaurant, which is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in all of Vietnam.
- It is common to find vegetarian versions of traditional Vietnamese street food such as Pho (Pho Chay) or Banh Mi (Banh Mi Chay).
- Popular Vietnamese vegetarian dishes include vegetarian spring rolls, xoi chay (a vegetarian rice with vegetables), banh khoai tay chien (potato cakes with vegetables), dau sot ca chua (tofu with tomato, green onion and herbs), rau muong xao toi (water spinach fried with garlic), and cai xao nam (fried bok choy with shitake mushrooms).
Vegetarian Food is Widely Available in Vietnam!
Of all Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam is probably the one country with the most vegetarian options!
Because herbs and spices are an important part of every Vietnamese meal whether it is vegetarian or not, they will spice up your rice and your veggies.
10 Popular Vegetarian Dishes in Vietnam
1. Vegetarian Banh Mi (Banh Mi Chay)
Among Vietnamese street foods, Banh Mi is king. This amazing sandwich is usually made with a French baguette and many different ingredients. Vegetarian options are made with tofu or egg, and at some stalls you will find a cheese version too.
2. Vegetarian Pho (Pho Chay)
For a vegetarian version of the most famous Vietnamese dish, Pho (a noodle soup with mint, lime, and soybeans), order a Pho Chay, and your broth will have no meat.
3. Vegetarian Spring Rolls (Banh Cuon Chay)
Deep-fried spring rolls are delicious, and vegetarian spring rolls are very common in Vietnam. These will be stuffed with mushrooms, carrot, and tofu instead. Banh Cuon Chay are made with rice flour batter spread like a crepe and then stuffed with plenty of greens and spices.
4. Green Papaya Salad (Nom Du Du)
For a cold Vietnamese vegetarian dish, try Nom Du Du, a crunchy salad made with green papaya, carrots, peanuts, sesame seeds, basil, and coriander, all covered with a sweet and sour dressing of honey and rice vinegar.
5. Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Banh It Tran)
When it comes to street snacks, try the Bahn It Tran, a dumpling made of glutinous rice filled with beans, fried shallots, and spring onions.
6. Sticky Rice with Vegetables (Xoi Chay)
If you want to keep it simple, try this sticky rice with vegetables! The rice is cooked and sliced, then fried, making for crispy slices of rice served with an array of different vegetables. Depending on the restaurant or stall you go to, this can range from chickpeas and coconut to broccoli and mushrooms.
7. Potato Cakes with Vegetables (Banh Khoai Tay Chien)
Made using mashed sweet potato, coconut, and green beans, these little potato cakes come with a peanut dipping sauce and spices. They're available from stalls throughout the country and make for a great snack on the go.
8. Tofu with Tomato, Green Onion and Herbs (Dau Sot Ca Chua)
A stir-fry made with tofu as the main ingredient, this is a great Vietnamese vegetarian dish to have alongside steamed rice. The yellow tofu is cooked with slices of tomato, green onions, and herbs for extra flavor.
9. Fried Garlic Water Spinach (Rau Muong Xao Toi)
Fresh water spinach stars heavily in Vietnamese cuisine, especially when it comes to vegetarian dishes. Try it fried with garlic and other Vietnamese herbs, perfect for on steamed rice.
10. Fried Bok Choy with Shitake Mushrooms (Cai Xao Nam)
A very simple Vietnamese dish, this one combines bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and sometimes comes with tofu pieces. Cai Xao Nam is also best eaten alongside some steamed rice!
4 Recommended Vegetarian Restaurants in Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City
We chose some Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants in the major Vietnamese cities of Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City, where you can find some delicious Vietnamese vegetarian food. They all offer excellent service, friendly staff, and dishes cooked with the freshest ingredients by skillful chefs.
1. Blue Butterfly Restaurant in Hanoi
This lovely, small restaurant is located in the heart of the Old Quarter in Hanoi, and has an extremely good atmosphere. The service is excellent, and the staff (fluent in English) will do everything to make you feel at home. The restaurant is spread out across two floors and sitting upstairs will give you a great view of the bustling street below.
Hanoi Old Quarter
Some of their best dishes are the deep-fried spring rolls served with dips, herbs, and fresh rice vermicelli; or the Vietnamese rice pancake, with herbs and dumpling sauce. You can order à la carte or choose between four different set menus. Most of the time, it is possible to ask for a vegetarian version of their regular dishes, too.
Location: 69 Ma May Street, Hanoi 100000
Opening hours: 8 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
2. Home Hoi An Vietnamese Restaurant in Hoi An
Located inside a French townhouse in Hoi An, this restaurant, with its elegant and warm setting, aims to preserve the amazing culinary tradition of the city. The chef uses only the freshest ingredients, and everything is locally produced.
Their vegetarian dishes, inspired mostly by traditional Vietnamese cuisine, include caramelized mushrooms in chili and garlic; stewed tofu with mushrooms served in a clay pot; and steamed seasonal vegetables with a thick dipping sauce. The stir-fried morning glory with chili and garlic, and the stir-fried organic mushrooms are two simple yet delicious dishes not to miss. You can also ask the waiter for a vegetarian version of the most popular traditional Vietnamese dishes.
Location: 112 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ancient Town Hoi An, Hoi An
Opening hours: 1–11 p.m.
3. Hum Vegetarian Café & Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City
The philosophy of Hum Vegetarian Café & Restaurant is to serve you only the freshest ingredients to nourish the body and soul, and this concept is mirrored in the peaceful atmosphere of the restaurant and their Vietnamese vegetarian dishes.
The restaurant, strictly vegetarian, chooses its dishes according to their health benefits. You can start your meal with olives and fruit in a chili sauce, and have the young ivory bamboo soup as appetizer. Some of their signature salads are the polyscias leaf salad and the floral salad, made with local edible flowers. Their delicious main courses include tofu in a fermented bean sauce; steamed mushrooms in coconut; and stewed taro with red pepper.
They also serve delicious rice-based dishes with pineapple, magenta, or seaweed; or ask for some steamed or sauté veggies to enjoy as a side dish. Even the desserts are unique: sweets like black glutinous rice yogurt or bean curd in ginger caramel sauce are not found everywhere.
Location: 2 Thi Sach, Ben Nghe, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
4. Den Long Home Cooked Vietnamese Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City
Den Long is a restaurant characterized by fine décor and exquisite food. The serving sizes are smaller than those at other places, as they try to recreate the experience of a Vietnamese homecooked meal. This means it is best to share more different dishes with your group! Their waiters will help you choose dishes based on your preferences.
Only the freshest ingredients are used to cook these amazing and simple dishes, all coming from the Vietnamese culinary tradition. Think fried rice, rice paper rolls, egg rolls, mango salad, and lots of vegetables.
Location: 130 Nguyen Trai, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Ingredients of Vietnamese Vegetarian Food
The staple of Vietnamese cuisine is rice. Usually, Vietnamese people have rice to accompany a main dish, mixing it with sauces and dips, or rice is often used to be stir-fried with vegetables, herbs, and spices. Noodles are also popular, especially in soups.
Some of the most common vegetables in Vietnamese cuisine include eggplant, water spinach, radish, cucumber, carrot, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, and bok choy. Pickled vegetables are the base for some characteristic dishes like Dua Kieu (made with Allium Chinense and eaten during Tet festival) or Dua Mon (made with carrot and white radish).
As for spices, coriander and green onion are ubiquitous, as well as chili, lemongrass, and coconut milk.
Vegetables are also the base for many sauces: Turong, for example, made from fermented soybeans; or the sweet and salty hoisin sauce, made with sweet potatoes, sugar, soy beans, sesame seeds, salt, and garlic. Soy sauce is also commonly used.
Fruit like papaya, mango, and jackfruit are used mostly for salads. Finally, another common ingredient for salads is tofu; an example is Goi Dau Hu made with tofu, cabbage, mint, and soy sauce.
Fruit Garden in Vietnam
Cooking of Vietnamese Vegetarian Food
In Vietnam, it is common to eat raw vegetables and dipping them in a sauce. However, vegetarian dishes can be cooked with a wide variety of cooking methods. The most basic one is stir-frying: onion and garlic are put in warm oil, and then vegetables are added. Dishes like spring rolls, on the other hand, are deep-fried.
Food can be steamed in woven bamboo steamers or metal trays (a popular method to cook sticky rice). Many vegetables can be boiled, and people use the water after boiling to prepare vegetable soups. A fresh and extremely healthy way to prepare your dish is using rice paper to wrap all the ingredients and then dip this fresh wrap in your favorite sauce.
Tips and Etiquette for Vegetarian Dining in Vietnam
Enjoy your Vietnamese vegetarian food with some dining etiquette in Vietnam!
- Do not stick your chopsticks into the rice, as this is seen as a sign of bad luck; and do not use your chopsticks to point at anybody.
- When having dinner with a lot of people, it is common to order several dishes for everyone to share. Do not dig inside the dish to look for something specific, but instead pick up some food randomly.
- Do not fill your plate with a lot of food from only one dish; give everyone the chance to taste all the different dishes.
- As in the West, it is also considered polite in Vietnam to wait for everyone before starting your meal. Usually, if seniors are sitting at your table, people will wait for them to start before eating anything themselves.
- Wait for everyone to finish their meal before leaving the table. Clearing the table and helping to wash the dishes is very much appreciated if you are dining at somebody's house!
Vegetarian Dining in Vietnam with Asia Highlights
We know you cannot wait to taste this amazing food, the result of a millenarian tradition. Start planning your next trip to Vietnam now! Book with Asia Highlights, and our knowledgeable staff will craft for you the perfect itinerary, trying to satisfy all your needs and ensuring you and your loved ones a hassle-free trip.
Check out the following links and learn more about our tours:
10-Day Best of Vietnam with Mekong Delta
13-Day Vietnam Classic Wonders with Sapa
14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour
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